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Original poster
Apr 12, 2001
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Apple is discontinuing in-house modem development after several unsuccessful attempts to perfect its own custom 5G modem chip, according to unconfirmed reports coming out of Asia.

Apple-5G-Modem-Feature-Triad.jpg

According to the operator of news aggregator account "yeux1122" on the Naver blog, supply chain sources related to Apple's 5G modem departments claim that the company's attempts to develop its own modem have failed so far, and that Apple is in the process of winding down its years-long investment in the project. Separately, the leaker known as @Tech_Reve today said they had heard similar reports from a Japanese supply chain source.

It's too early to say if the latest reports are accurate, but according to a September Wall Street Journal report, Apple's attempts to develop its own modem chip have been hampered by major issues related to unrealistic goals, an inadequate understanding of the challenges involved, and unusable prototypes.

Apple's plan to design its own in-house modem led to the hiring of thousands of engineers: Apple acquired the majority of Intel's smartphone modem business in 2019, and as it filled the project's ranks with Intel engineers and others hired from Qualcomm, company executives set a goal to have the modem chip ready for fall 2023.

Earlier this month, Bloomberg's Mark Gurman reported that Apple was continuing to run into troubles in its attempt to develop a 5G modem to replace Qualcomm's 5G modems in the iPhone and other products. The modem chip launch was said to have been postponed until the end of 2025 or early 2026, but Apple was reportedly still planning to introduce the technology in a version of the low-cost iPhone SE.

Development on a modem chip was said to be in the early stages, and it "may lag behind the competition by years." One version in development does not support faster mmWave technology, and Apple has also run into issues with the Intel code that it has been working with. Rewrites have been required, and adding new features has been causing existing features to break, plus Apple has to be careful not to infringe on Qualcomm patents while developing the chip.

Despite delays, the company was thought to be continuing development because it is eager to end its expensive deal with Qualcomm. In 2017, Apple sued Qualcomm over alleged anticompetitive practices and $1 billion in unpaid royalty rebates. The two companies settled the lawsuit in 2019.

Apple's first modem chip was expected to be a standalone chip, but the company hoped to eventually develop a system-on-a-chip that would also cut out suppliers like Broadcom and give it more control over component development.

Article Link: Apple to Discontinue Custom 5G Modem Development, Claim Reports
 
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krspkbl

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2012
1,878
4,316
Good. Seems like they can't manage it and really they don't need it. They just want it to save money and not have to pay Qualcomm. Best put people to work on something else and stick with Qualcomm. 99% of users won't notice or care what modem they use.
 

urahara

macrumors newbie
Jun 2, 2020
11
48
Trillion dollar company can’t do something like a simple 5g modem hmmm
Have you thought that there is IP there, which they need to work around to avoid paying fines. And maybe the alternative ways are either also under IP or they are not that efficient from the user perspective or worth investment from the business perspective. So it’s not about ‘can’t’, but if there is everything fine from legal and if it makes sence from business perspective.
 

ksec

macrumors 68020
Dec 23, 2015
2,190
2,534
Time to dig out all the Macrumors comments

Apple can move mountains....

Apple made the best CPU in the world beating even Intel, you think they cant do 5G modem?

Apple's modem will be coming in 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023, 2024, 2025.......

Apple dont need to pay a single dollar to Qualcomm once they make their own modem.
 

Koni17

macrumors member
Nov 2, 2016
77
386
If this turns out to be true, it would be a huge win for Qualcomm. It seems like Intel already knew there was no point in trying to save this business/design back then, as they lost billions on the deal. Terrible waste of money if it doesn't come to market.
 

obviouslogic

macrumors 6502
Mar 23, 2022
260
407
Yeah poor Apple. They are too greedy to pay for parts from companies that actually know what they are doing.

Umm, that makes zero sense. Greedy companies worry about their bottom line over all else. A greedy company would prefer to buy the cheapest, off the shelf parts to build their devices, rather than invest billions in developing their own technologies.

Apple doesn’t bring things in house because of their bottom line, they do it, because they want to be able to control their own product road maps, part of which means relying less and less on 3rd party components.
 

azentropy

macrumors 68040
Jul 19, 2002
3,968
5,244
Surprise
So now please focus on the Apple Car and at least finish that.
If they are struggling to develop a 5G modem you think they can do a whole car?!? :)
Good. Seems like they can't manage it and really they don't need it. They just want it to save money and not have to pay Qualcomm. Best put people to work on something else and stick with Qualcomm. 99% of users won't notice or care what modem they use.
Apple is really good at having multiple sources of parts. When Intel announced they were leaving the modem market that only left Qualcomm, so that is probably the main reason they acquired Intel's IP and hired personal. I think they would be fine if someone else could supply them, but they just don't want to be left with one supplier (who they already sued once).
 

_apple_apple_

macrumors member
Dec 11, 2021
68
118
I doubt Apple is giving up, they really don't want to be at the mercy of their vendors — could turn sour at any moment.

They're like looking at the following options:
  • Find a start up with a completely different hardware approach to modems (no patent infringement) and acquire them. why didn't they do this before? it's been a few years, might not have existed back then.
  • Start from scratch using a different base technology where the design is practically guaranteed to be different enough to avoid patent infringement. For example, an optical-computing based modem or something.
  • Decide if its worth trying to get certain patents invalidated to unblock their own modem. Apple has done this before, most recently with some of the sensor tech in the Apple Watch.
 

System603

macrumors member
Dec 15, 2021
56
208
Europe
I genuinely wish them better luck with 6G. There's hopefully still some time and space for engineering and participating on the technology/standards for 6G. Apple could still create or acquire necessary patents, technologies, etc.

Even though it is mentioned in every article, many people still view the problem inaccurately. It's not that they can't make a 5G modem in general. They could probably make a competitively efficient one. BUT they can't do it in a unique enough way that they wouldn't need patents from Qualcomm.

There's hopefully still a bit of room in 6G. Although many of the processes, principles and technologies will be generic enough that some patents will be carried over. And with it at least some of Apple's problems with 5G modem.
 
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MacProFCP

Contributor
Jun 14, 2007
1,085
2,357
Michigan
I’m sure Qualcom is rolling when reading this article.

27” iMac
Apple Car
Apple Card
5G modem
Time Capsule
AirPort Express
MacPro (gutted)
Final Cut Pro (neglected)
Siri (from bad to unusable)
Aperture (A loved product that is still better than anything from Adobe.)

As I’ve been saying for a while:
1. Hubris born of success
2. Undisciplined pursuit of more
3. Denial of risk and peril
4. Grasping for salvation
5. Capitulation to irrelevance

Apple is still selling, and making money, but the sales are getting lower as the product quality diminishes and more and more longtime, loyal customers feel that Apple products no longer “just work.”
 
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obviouslogic

macrumors 6502
Mar 23, 2022
260
407
No chance Apple are out. Not in the least.

Overstretched resources, maybe, but they're definitely not winding that department down.

Agreed. People seem to forget that these are all rumors. Even the fact that Apple is even making their own modem is, at this point, just a rumor, based off an acquisition of an Intel department. While it is fun to speculate about what Apple is or isn’t doing, people need to keep their heads out of their asses and remain grounded in reality.

If Apple is designing their own wireless modem, they are not losing any significant amount of money doing so. This is a company that brings in $1B every single day.

I’d guess the biggest issue, has more to do with working around IP, which by the way, Qualcomm does not own 5G, they do have a ton of IP in the standard (as do many other companies - including Apple) but they do not own it.
 
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